By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
With the 2011 calendar winding down and the Oscar races heating up, what are the end-of-the-year (and-in-some-cases-immediately-thereafter) flicks that we’ll be flocking to during the holiday season and beyond?
Here’s this year’s lineup of coming hopeful blockbusters, best-selling-book adaptations, built-in-audience sequels, and get-out-the-vote Oscar contenders that flaunt their pedigrees as we wait for them to open.
Jonah Hill, who demonstrated surprising and effective dramatic chops in Moneyball, stars as an unemployed student who has been suspended from college and lives at home with his mother, who has no idea what he’s getting himself into when he agrees to babysit three poorly behaved children on an evening when distracting temptations pop up outside the kids’ house and a chase through Manhattan ensues, in the comedy The Sitter.
Charlize Theron plays a ghostwriter of a tween-girls book series who returns home to relive her glory days and try to break up the marriage of her high school sweetheart, played by Patrick Wilson, and win him back in a collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody (who worked together previously and memorably on Juno) in the dark dramedy Young Adult.
Half of Hollywood — including Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, Hilary Swank, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Halle Berry, and many, many others — show up in director Garry Marshall’s followup ensemble romantic comedy to his big hit, Valentine’s Day, as vignettes about the intertwining lives of two dozen characters are set on New Year’s Eve.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as extraordinary detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, in director Guy Ritchie’s followup to the cerebrally entertaining mystery-thriller, Sherlock Holmes, as the Crown Prince of Austria turns up dead and Holmes’ archenemy Dr. Moriarty and sleuth brother Mycroft turn up alive in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
A silent, black-and-white period movie — yes, you read that right — attempts to attract an appreciative modern audience in this tale of a popular movie star (Jean Dujardin) in the 1920s who falls for an aspiring starlet (Berenice Bejo) and has trouble transitioning into the sound era in the romantic melodrama from French director Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist.
Those singing rodents are back in another sequel for the kids — as is Jason Lee as their managing owner and father figure — in a third installment that finds the Chipmunks and Chipettes relaxing on a luxury cruise until they’re shipwrecked and find themsleves stranded on an island that’s not as deserted as it looks in the family comedy, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked.
With the Muppets back on screens this holiday season, there might be a dash of extra interest in a visit with puppeteer Kevin Clash, the guy inside the bright red suit of Elmo, the beloved Sesame Street character, in the give-him-a-big-hand documentary from co-directors Constance Marks and Philip Shane, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.
Tom Cruise returns as superagent Ethan Hunt, the leader of the Impossible Mission Force, in the fourth Impossible Mission installment, the first since 2000, based on the classic TV series of high-tech adventure thrillers, as Jeremy Renner joins the IMF team and animation director Brad Bird makes his live-action debut as the team is framed for a bombing at the Kremlin and goes rogue in Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol.
Daniel Craig plays a disgraced journalist investigating a conspiratorial mystery and Rooney Mara snares the tattooed-computer-hacker role played in the Swedish original by Noomi Rapace in the American remake based on the international best-seller by Stieg Larsson, a hard-edged thriller from director David Fincher, the very R-rated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Director Steven Spielberg brings the internationally popular books of Belgian author and illustrator Herge about Tintin, a globetrotting young reporter, to the United States in a performance-capture, CG-animated, 3D feature that’s an amalgam of three books in the series, with the plot involving a search for treasure on a sunken ship in The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.
Matt Damon stars as a single-dad newspaper columnist who has just lost his wife to cancer and, in an attempt to reconnect with his children, moves his Southern California family to the countryside to renovate and reopen a dilapidated wildlife park in the based-on-a-true-story comedy-drama from writer-director Cameron Crowe, based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo.
Gary Oldman inherits the role of master spy George Smiley, played in the 1970s British TV mini-series by Alec Guinness — and he’s supported by John Hurt, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, and Ciaran Hinds — who’s forced from semi-retirement in a complex drama based on the espionage novel by John Le Carre set in the bleak days of the Cold War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Spielberg again, competing with himself this holiday season, also directs this family adventure, set against the sweeping vista of rural England and Europe, about a horse named Joey, that’s based on the hit play that sprung from Michael Morpurgo’s Young Adult novel — and uses real horses rather than life-sized puppets, as did the play — and is a harrowing tale of survival set on the nightmarish battlefields of World War I, War Horse.
Michael Fassbender portrays psychiatrist Carl Jung; Viggo Mortensen plays his mentor, Sigmund Freud; and Keira Knightley is a traumatized patient undergoing therapy who comes between them in director David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the 2002 Christopher Hampton play, “The Talking Cure,” about the intense relationship between the pioneers of psychoanalysis, A Dangerous Method.
Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, both Academy Award winners, team up in the movie version of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005, 9/11-themed best-seller about a precocious eleven-year-old on a journey throughout New York City as part of a mission to find a final message that his late father, Hanks, left behind when he died in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in the coming-of-age drama, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Two-time Oscar winner and sixteen-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep portrays former Conservative British prime minister Margaret Thatcher (to the chagrin of some folks across the pond) — with Jim Broadbent as her husband, Dennis — in a biographical drama for director Phyllida Lloyd (who directed Streep in Mamma Mia!), the script for which spans seven decades, but the focus is on the 1980s, in The Iron Lady.
And Glenn is extremely quiet but incredibly Close as the five-time Oscar nominee plays the title character — a role she previously played on the stage — the illegitimate child of a maid and now a disguised woman who has passed as a man for 30 years and works as a butler and waiter in a hotel in Dublin in the 19th century, in the gender-bending drama from director Rodrigo Garcia, Albert Nobbs.
So, have a happy — and entertaining — holiday season!